Lactation education is in higher demand than ever. Social media has allowed for mass promotion of breastfeeding. This visible acceptance and saturation on the web, coupled with continued public health agencies echoing the importance of breastfeeding has families searching for high-quality, available classes in their areas.
Breastfeeding can be the great equalizer. It is imperative that the same advantages are given to every newborn. Evidence-based research reveals that those who receive breast milk have fewer allergies, ear infections, obesity, Type I Juvenile Diabetes, asthma and allergies. They also have improved cognitive development. Many ingredients in breast milk are tailor made to improve health outcomes.
Lactation Educators can change lives. Parents who receive timely information and on-going support greater breastfeeding success. Statistically, breastfeeding education results in higher breastfeeding rates. Although public health agencies track rates, educators can see the difference they make in the lives of individual families. If an infant receives breast milk, it could mean less sick days parents need to take from work to care for an ill child. If a newborn receives breast milk, it could result in higher test scores and more college offers. If a newborn receives breast milk, it could enable the child to do well in sports due to more muscle development and less asthma attacks. Breast milk is not a newborn benefit, but rather a lifetime benefit.
Advocates have done a wonderful job informing everyone that breast milk is optimal for infant feeding. Unfortunately, 15% of our population experience delayed Lactogenesis (onset of milk supply) and 5% experience failed Lactogenesis and therefore must rely on a feeding supplement. Families who planned to breastfeed are often devastated at the realization that their bodies have not cooperated. They should still be encouraged to offer what milk they can provide. They may be encouraged to learn that breast milk is valuable in any quantity. Compassionate, empathetic counseling is crucial during this fragile time. It is important for educators to be able to provide information and support.
Counselors should be prepared to discuss feeding options and safe practices. Donor human milk is on the rise and many hospitals make it available immediately postpartum. However, the supply is not available after discharge unless families purchase it from private companies.
The other option for infant feeding is commercial formula. Perinatal professionals should remind families that formula is available to provide the nutrients the baby needs. Mixing formula correctly and practicing paced-bottle feeding and skin-to-skin will allow for more bonding, less overfeeding, and lower risk of illness.
One must maintain a delicate balance between being a passionate breastfeeding advocate and showing sensitivity to those who are unable to breastfeed due to hormonal, anatomical or medical reasons. Ideally, professionals will advocate for higher quality, safer, affordable and available options for those unable to offer breast milk. Lactation professionals must join the conversation surrounding supplements in order to press for improvements from manufactures and more stringent rules from the FDA. Our formula-feeding families deserve our support.
In a perfect world, everyone would have the education, support, resources and ability to breastfeed. We do not live in a perfect world. The postpartum period is often riddled with exhaustion, discomfort, frustration, fear, loneliness, confusion and extreme emotions. Professionals are obligated to alleviate as much of this as possible. Humans are used to facing disappointment, adjusting their plans and pivoting. Humans are a resilient group, but love and compassion go a long way during this transitional time. Educators should be prepared to support families regardless of their feeding choice, because some truly do not have a choice.
Christy Jo Hendricks
CAPPA Faculty, IBCLC, RLC, CLE, CCCE, CD
Christy Jo brings over 20 years of teaching experience to the classroom. She is an Internationally Board-Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Certified Birth Doula. She has a passion for facilitating and protecting the mother/baby bond. Her contribution to this field has been recognized by the United States Presidential Volunteer Award and the Phyllis Klaus Founder’s Award for Promoting the Mother/Baby Bond. Christy Jo’s life-long goal has been to help others reach theirs. Her informative, yet entertaining teaching style makes learning enjoyable and retention easy. Christy Jo is the creator and instructor of the Grow Our Own Lactation Consultant/IBCLC Prep Course which has been used to train hundreds of women to follow their dreams of becoming Lactation Consultants. Her extensive lactation knowledge and reputation have made her courses desirable by Public Health Departments, midwives, doulas, WIC organizations and individuals entering the perinatal field. Christy Jo currently teaches lactation, attends births, facilitates lactation clinics for low-income clients and advocates for women in Southern California, where she lives with her husband and three children. More…